ACT Scores Are Flat

Racial gaps persist, as does link between rigor of courses and test scores.

August 26, 2015

ACT scores in 2015 were flat -- with a continuation of recent patterns of significant gaps in the average scores by race and ethnicity.

The composite score was 21.0, the same as last year, with gains of  0.1 point in all of the sections except mathematics, which saw a 0.1 point decline. (The highest possible score on any part and the composite is 36.0)

ACT Scores, 2015 and 2014

  2014 2015
English 20.3 20.4
Mathematics 20.9 20.8
Reading 21.3 21.4
Science 20.8 20.9
Composite 21.0 21.0

As ACT has done for many years now, it released data showing that high school students who take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum not only score better on the ACT, but meet overall college readiness “benchmarks” to succeed in college. The ACT lists separate benchmarks for the four subject areas on the test, and only in English do a majority (in that case nearly two-thirds) of students meet the benchmarks. Only 28 percent of those finishing high school meet the benchmarks in all four subject areas.

As has been the case in past years, the ACT data show significant gaps by race and ethnicity, with the average score for Asians growing by more than the scores of any other group.

ACT Composite Scores, 2015 and 2014, by Race and Ethnicity

Group 2014 2015
Black 17.0 17.1
Native American 18.0 17.9
White 22.3 22.4
Latino 18.8 18.9
Asian 23.5 23.9
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 18.6 18.8
Two or more races 21.2 21.2
Didn't respond 20.7 20.6

The new data also show continued growth in the number of ACT test takers. In the last year, ACT had 1,924,436 people take the test, up from 1,845,436 the prior year. In recent years, ACT has been gaining market share on the SAT. The College Board will soon release data on the SAT for the last year.

Jon Whitmore, CEO of ACT, said he thinks that about two-thirds of the increase in ACT test takers is coming from states where the SAT has historically been dominant, outside the Midwestern and Southern states where the ACT has had the upper hand.

He also said he is hearing that forthcoming changes in the SAT are having a positive impact for the ACT. “With the anxiety about the competitor's new offering, a lot of counselors are directing students to the ACT,” he said.


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